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RELIGION LITURGY AND LIFE

Archive for the month “November, 2016”

FIRST SUNDAY OF ADVENT

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Last Sunday we ended the year of mercy with the feast of Christ the King, although the Holy Year has ended we remember that the mercy of god is never-ending and is without any bounds. So this Sunday we begin our Advent journey the  period of waiting and watching as we prepare spiritually for the season of Christmas. We bless the Advent Wreathe and light the first purple candle it symbolizes our longing, our desire, our hope at this time of year. Christmas is a sort of spiritual birthday party, celebrating a past event, the birth of the Messiah.  That said if we think that Christmas is a secular celebration of a birth 2000 years ago we are missing the point it is not just about a past event it is also about the here and now of today and the future. Three particular things shape our preparation during advent.  We want to be renewed in the sense that Jesus came to save us from our sin and death.  We want to experience his coming to us in our everyday lives, to help us live our lives with meaning and purpose.  And we want to prepare for his coming to meet us at the end of our lives on this earth.

At the beginning of each church year we are reminded that Jesus the Christ is present in his church today.  When we think of his presence as something so exalted as to be beyond our own experience, we are reminded sharply that he was born in the lowest of places, a common stable.  His first visitors were stinky, rough shepherds who were the outcasts of the society at that time.  The preparation time that the season of Advent affords us is a time for us to prune, weed and convert our spiritual lives and our way of thinking as we prepare the way for the Lord so that he can enter into our lives.   The tragedy of this season is that we have been programmed over so many years to believe that Christmas is all about gift giving, and non-stop activity that leaves everyone so exhausted and happy it’s all over by Christmas Eve.  So then we forget about the 12 days of Christmas and dump the tree the decorations and the lights as soon as possible. Blessed John Henry Newman reminds us that “Advent is a time of waiting; it is a time of joy because the coming of Christ is not only a gift of grace and salvation but it is also a time of commitment because it motivates us to live the present as a time of responsibility and vigilance.

This ‘vigilant responsibility’ means the necessity, of an industrious, living ‘wait’ as we prepare the way for the Lord pruning away all that hinders us from making him welcome when he comes at Christmas   . As we begin advent we need to ask ourselves what are we waiting for.  Are we waiting for the presents and razzmatazz that the secular part of Christmas bring or are we preparing spiritually for the greatest gift of God, his Son, Jesus the light in the darkness who is the reason for the season of Christmas.

 

THE FEAST OF CHRIST THE KING

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This Sunday we celebrate the last Sunday of the year with the feast of Christ the King. This feast was established by Pope Pius XI in 1925, to remind us that our allegiance was to one who exercised power not by force or might, but by love and service for others. The gospel reading for this Sunday is part of the passion that we read on Palm Sunday the scene opens as Jesus hung on the cross between two condemned criminals. Jesus had uttered his famous words of forgiveness “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do” and his last possession his clothes had been gambled away by the guards. Jesus had nothing to look forward to but death and the scene ends with one of the thieves asking Jesus to remember him in his kingdom. Jesus reply was the beautiful words “today you will be with me in paradise”. The “good” thief acknowledged he and the other criminal were rightly condemned for their acts by legitimate authority.

But Jesus was unjustly condemned by an authority which had no jurisdiction over him. Later when the disciples interpreted Jesus’ life and ministry they applied Isaiah’s image of the Suffering Servant to him,  the servant who was like a lamb led to slaughter; who bore our infirmities so that we could be healed and raised up. From the cross and through the power given us by the Holy Spirit, we are able to respond to hatred with love; forgive when we have been offended and serve those who cannot return the favour these are just a few of the ways Jesus gives us his power and shows us how to use it for the sake of his Kingdom and the good of all. While this gospel closes the liturgical year, it is not the end of the story. Here we are over 2000 years later thinking about the cross as well as Jesus’ promise of life given to the thief. The kingdom of God is a kingdom where everyone is valued and no one is left out. The cross is evidence that God, in the person of Jesus, really does care about each of us. God cares about both thieves in the gospel not just the one who acknowledged his sin.

God cares so much for us that he wants to share in every part of our lives. He knows our pain, the anguish that comes from living in an imperfect, often hate filled world. He embraces it as a standard, a light that demonstrates his unconditional love for each and every one of us. The kingship of Christ has nothing to do with triumphalism or lording it over other people. Jesus is no victor entering the city at the head of tanks, leading rank upon rank of infantrymen there is no fly-past with jets or other warplanes nor is there a great flotilla of warships or boats. The King we celebrate this weekend is the Son of God who walks the dusty roads of our daily lives finding the weak, the ill, the oppressed, the ones whose hearts are wounded, the ones whose minds are confused by the bright lights of materialism and the things that they see going on around them. Jesus finds all kinds of people as he journeys with us along the dusty roads, he finds ordinary folk as well as the elite, the powerful as well as the weak and he invites all of them and all of us to walk his way as we prepare to begin another Church Year with the advent season.Are we prepared to take up the challenge to start walking down the road that leads to salvation as we end this liturgical year and begin anew?

33rd SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME

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Well here we are at the 33rd Sunday of ordinary time we are near the end of the liturgical year as well as that we are at the end of the year of Mercy.  These days we live in very uncertain times, things in the world at large are very different with the election of Donald Trump as president of the USA. As the saying goes what a difference a week makes. So what does our Gospel for this Sunday tell us, This gospel reading from Luke is there to help us to be honest with ourselves as we go forward to the feast of Christ the King and then on to Advent as it talks about the end times. This weekend Luke’s gospel places Jesus in the temple. Those around him were marvelling at the temple, the stone carvings, the offerings of the people to God were a source of amazement. Jesus threw cold water on their thoughts about the great temple. When people commented on its  glory Jesus prophesied that doom and gloom would come from their spiritual slumber. Jesus also stated that there will come a time when the temple with all its glory will lie in ruins, its magnificence gone and the place a place of desolation. To the crowd around him who heard what he said this was inconceivable.

The temple was the hinge of Jewish life, something solid to hang onto in hard times. Naturally they wanted to know when it would happen. Jesus didn’t give them or us a date or time when this would happen. Jesus also assured his followers of divine help of God when the time of trial came. Those people who have the courage to live the Way of Jesus are often questioned, interrogated, and abused because they are following Jesus. They give witness by how they live their daily lives and many persecuted people have given their lives in so many places in recent times. In these first 16 Years of the twenty first century we are faced with terrible inequity of living standards in many countries. For many people there is the awful crushing experience of being left out, being left behind. Many people don’t want to understand the pain and isolation that comes from being excluded from so many things for instance exclusion from education and healthcare these are just two examples of people being denied opportunities for a better life there are many more and there are many people around and about us who are afflicted and Jesus came to comfort them in what he did and what he said.

How are we responding to the issues of our time as we look towards the future this weekend wondering what that future holds for us as we think about this we also remember that the words of Jesus in the Gospels are there to afflict the comfortable and comfort the afflicted! None of us have the answers if we had the answers, I don’t know that we would be any better than we are. This weekend when we think about the end times in the scripture we pray for one another, for faith that endures, a faith that perseveres, and a faith that lasts till the very end of the doom and gloom of the dark night that we sometimes have to go through until we come to the light of Christ!

32nd SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME

 

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In the course of his public ministry Jesus came across many people who had differing opinions about his message. This Sunday we hear about the Sadducees they accepted Roman rule and customs as a trade-off for retaining the power they had. The worldly influence of led them to be religiously conservative. Unlike the Pharisees, they accepted the written Law of Moses and rejected the authority of oral tradition. In our Gospel story they attempt to ridicule the resurrection of the dead by recalling the Mosaic Law on levirate marriage. The Sadducees develop an example to the point of absurdity in giving the example of seven brothers each of whom marries the same woman, but each of the brothers dies childless. None of the brothers has proved husband in terms of producing an heir: in that case, whose wife would the woman be in the resurrection?

In his reply Jesus makes it clear that there is no comparison between human life, shared by all, those who are children of God. Jesus makes the distinction between two ages and two peoples: the people of this age who live a life peculiar to this time, and those who are resurrected from the dead into a new age. The tightly wound arguments of the Sadducees and of Jesus present an interesting contrast. The Sadducees pointed to an ordinance in the Law to prove the absurdity of a popular belief. Jesus countered by refusing the key issue in their argument the afterlife was an extension of present life. Then, he proceeded to fuse the belief in the resurrection with the revelation of God to his people.Through his argument Jesus reveals something of his own image of God – a God who keeps his promise to his faithful ones even when they die. Jesus does more than argue that case he leads by example when the time comes he himself becomes the argument. He undergoes death on Good Friday and then he experiences the glory of resurrection on Easter Sunday when God the Father refused  to let death have the last word. The risen Jesus is the greatest argument against the Sadducees and their idea of religion and faith. Death has been overcome and sin need not dominate our lives. We may not have the plans for the arrangements of the next life, but what we do know is that we have the hope of God’s promise to us that He will rescue us from the darkness of the shadow of death and lead us into the light of Christ in our heavenly homeland.

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